Do you incorporate riding THE CENTRE LINE into your everyday schooling sessions?
Perhaps when you are preparing for a competition or running through your test, but is it a movement that you do regularly as part of your regular warm up or schooling regime? Because, if it isn’t, it should be!
Your centre line will be judged on a number of factors: how confident you are on entry; straightness and suppleness; rhythm; contact; impulsion and accuracy.
A Confident Entry
In a novice dressage test the movements for entry on the centre line are …
- A – Enter in working trot and proceed down the centre line without halting – Turn left or right
- A – Enter at working trot and proceed down centre line. X – Halt. Immobility. Salute. Proceed in working trot. Turn left or right
You have to get into the arena but before that you to ride around the arena. What you do in this time really depends on your horse.
If your horse is tense you may wish to walk and let the horse have a look at the judge on both reins. You may wish to ensure that you have your horse ‘with you’ and do some transitions or settle him with a little shoulder-in. The judge may be pre-occupied with the previous competitor’s comments and you will not know the point at which the judge looks up to see you. Be aware of this because judging starts as soon as the judge sets eyes on you, whether they know it or not, make sure you make a good first impression.
Once the bell is sounded you have 45 seconds to get into the arena before elimination, but please do not panic. At home ride round the arena for 45 seconds and get a feel for how long this is … it’s ages!
The next thing that you need to consider is whether your entry will be from the right rein or the left rein. Always enter from the direction you’ll be turning at C. So, if you’re turning right at C, enter from the right rein. This enables you to more easily establish the bend at C, ensure you are on the correct diagonal (if rising) and prevents you from having to make unnecessary changes whilst you are in the arena.
As you travel the centre line, look up, and make eye contact with the judge. No matter how you’re really feeling, look confident and give the judge a big smile. Remain looking ahead to something beyond the judge. Fix your eyes and get there to aid your straightness.
A horse is said to be straight when its forehand is in line with its hindquarters and therefore the horse’s hind legs are tracking into the prints that have been left by his front legs.
Crookedness will occur if your seat is uneven, if you ‘collapse’ or if your aids are uneven. Equally, a horse won’t move straight if he is muscled unevenly or has poorly fitting tack. Straightness is a team effort and there is no doubt in my mind that straightness is a quality that distinguishes the skilled rider from the average rider.
Here are a couple of tips to aid your accuracy on the centre line.
- Before your schooling session use a rake in the arena to draw a straight line from A to C. This will show you whether your straight lines are straight, or not !
- Lay three parallel pairs of poles along the centre line and practise riding between them. Aim for C and, as you improve, place the poles closer together.
A supple horse will be able to move straight, so in your training, ride plenty of transitions between paces; ask for bend / flexion whilst on a straight line, then rebalance and ask for bend / flexion in the opposite direction. Working this way will enable you to make any corrections easily when in a competition.
The key to riding a good centre line is practice. It may sound simple, but you can become reliant on the fence to help keep you straight and you need to get into the habit of riding straight lines away from the outside.
Rhythm, Even Contact, Impulsion and Accuracy
There are links to previous blog posts (in green) to help you with each of these elements:
Aim to keep your horse’s steps even. There are a number of opportunities for you to lose your rhythm in the centre line movement; on the bend during entry, coming to the halt, from the halt to C, on the bend as you turn at C.
The slower the pace the more chance your horse has of going crooked. A forward horse will be less likely to go off-line.
When you turn up the centre line make sure that you don’t cut the corner or overshoot the centre line. Practice making quarter turns of 10 metres at first, and gradually reduce the size of the turns to about five or six metres.
Exiting the Centre Line
As you approach the end of the centre line, prepare your horse for the turn by indicating which way you’re going with a small flexion on the rein and by using your leg on that side. Try not to ride a bubble at the end (riding slightly the wrong way before turning).
- If the judge is in a car, remember it’s the steering wheel and not the centre of the bonnet that’s on the centre line, so aim for that.
- If you are entering from within the arena, it is better to turn slightly short of the centre line and straighten on to it than to over shoot and have to wobble back on to it.
- Look beyond C to a fixed point in the distance, and aim for that. Looking down will probably ruin your line.
- Keep both hands either side of the centre line
- Ride FORWARD!
The entry on the centre line can show up many faults which will lose you valuable points throughout a test, get it right and you will have many skills under your belt.
Patricia – The Dressage Tipster